Summit Lake Park. Photo: Matt Wright
Summit Lake is one of the best examples of Arctic tundra in the contiguous United States. It’s tucked away on Mount Evans, in between the towns of Evergreen and Idaho Springs.
Designated in 1965, this 207 acre natural landmark is located on city-owned land. It’s accessible with an automobile seasonally via the Mt Evans Byway, a national scenic byway.
Denver Mountain Park near Idaho Springs
Located at 12,836 feet above sea level, this national natural landmark shows the alpine tundra landscape wonderfully. At this high altitude, there are no trees because of the excessive cold, wind and adverse soils.
The natural landmark is situated within the Summit Lake Park, which is managed by the city of Denver, as part of their Denver Mountain Parks division. Rare alpine and arctic plants inhabit the area, some species of which only occur here and the Arctic Circle. The difference between alpine and arctic tundra, is that arctic tundra has permafrost, therefore alpine soils are usually better drained.
Summit Lake is the source of Bear Creek, which flows through the Mt Evans Wilderness. This vast national wilderness area surrounds the area, which borders the Arapaho National Forest and Mt Evans SWA.
Hiking trails at Summit Lake Park
If you’re a hiking enthusiast and live anywhere near Denver, or making plans to go there; then this spot should be added on your list of places to hike. Considered to be Denver’s highest mountain park at approximately 12,800 ft, Summit Lake Park is a 40-acre park acquired by Denver in 1924.
The park is located along Mt. Evans Scenic Byway and accessible via the Mt. Evans Road (pay a fee to get access). You have the option to climb Mt. Evans through the Mt. Evans Trail. Or if you prefer a short hike, two short trails are accessible within Summit Lake Park where you also have access to the lake shore and the Chicago Lakes Overlook Trail via the Summit Lake Loop
Other than hiking, Summit Lake Park will give you a place to think and experience a leisure walk with nature in Denver’s highest mountain park. Their facilities include parking, trails, a shelter, and trail signs and markers for hikers.
County: Clear Creek